Forever Abbot of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra: A Tribute to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche on His 90th Birthday

Forever Abbot of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra

A Tribute to Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche on His 90th Birthday

by PC Chen
September 1, 2013


90 years ago
(about 7503.7 miles from  here),
a baby boy was born in a remote place in Tibet.
His birth did not cause any pain to his mother.
Instead, it was accompanied by many auspicious signs
foretelling the qualities that would gradually manifest throughout his life.

You might wonder what these qualities are,
but I cannot tell you
as it would exhaust the ink as vast as the ocean
to write them down and
it would be much harder to count them
than to figure out the number of sand grains in the River Ganges.

So perhaps, a more comprehensible approach
might be recollecting the qualifies
that he does not have ―
in terms of body, speech, and mind.
There are 12 in total.

To begin with, he has no attachment:
At age 12, he turned away from the nonsense of samsara,
and entered Thrangu monastery to become a monk,
determined to cut the ties to this life
once and for all.

Second, he has no flaws in moral discipline:
At age 20, he received the full ordination
from the 11th Tai Situ Rinpoche.
Since then,
he has kept his moral discipline intact,
and would never compromise even at the cost of his own life.

Third, he has no expectation:
By age 30, he had completed the traditional three year retreat
and five year academic study.
For several years, he trod across the boundless fields of the snow-capped mountains, spreading the Dharma and performing rituals,
feeling life would be just as simple and sweet
as the taste of the water of a Himalayan stream.

But life took an unexpected turn, in which
shows that he has no hesitation:
At age 35, he had to quickly flee the political turmoil
that led to the deaths of half a million in Tibet.
Finally, at age 44, he arrived at Rumtek Monastery,
the Karmapa's main seat in Sikkim,
and taught there among other places in India.

In less than 10 years, life took another unexpected turn,
showing that he has no doubt:
At age 53, appointed by the 16th Karmapa,
he boarded an airplane bound for New York to fulfill his role
as the abbot of a yet-to-be-built monastery,
Karma Triyana Dharmachakra.

Coming to a country with drastically different culture and language from his own,
in this the Karmapa's decision, he has no doubt,
and works diligently to fulfill the guru's vision.

Sixth, he has no fixed-identity:
He worked on every possible job to actualize the monastery.
He was an architect, an interior designer, and a geomancer;
He was a sculptor,
by hand carving the monastery's name into the lintel of its entrance gate;
a construction worker, mixing cement, cutting logs;
a tailor, fabricating cushions, dharma robes, and
sewing brocade for thangka frames, tables, and statues.

Seventh, he has no vacation:
For the past 30 years continuously,
he has set his foot around the globe,
establishing dharma centers across this country
as well as in South America and Taiwan,
teaching, and bestowing refuge and empowerments,
placing beings on the path to liberation.    

Eighth, He has no retirement:
At age 70, a retirement age for most people,
he started incubating domestic lamas
by putting his most diligent students through the traditional three year retreat,
thereby elevating the dharma practice of the lineage in this country
to a different level.
At age 89, he traveled to Taiwan to teach as well as to fundraise.
Even now at age 90, his teachings and responsibilities are still in increasing demand.

Ninth, he has no enemies:
Since becoming a monk, he has never quarreled with any other monks,
young and old, always in harmony with all.
He extended that pure discipline in working with staff,
his colleagues and subordinates.
For what enemy could possibly outlive him?

After reviewing the nine qualities missing in speech and mind,
the remaining three concern the aspect of body.
he has no wrinkles on his face,
no freckles on his hands, and
no white hair on his head.

He is a fountain of immortality and liberation,
so drink from him, praise him, and pray to him.
Request teachings from him, for he will fill your cup to the brim
with the amrita of transcendental knowledge.
Entreat him to remain on earth,
for a Buddha in a human form is difficult to come by.

His name is so difficult to utter,
especially on this day of celebration,
that I only dare to refer to him as  ——
the Forever Abbot of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra.


Several days later at Karme Ling, Rinpoche pointed out a deficiency in the poem. “Three things were missing”, he said “I have no hair on top of my head, no real teeth in my mouth, and no English in my speech.” “Indeed,” I replied. “At the time of your 100th birthday celebration, I promise to write another poem with all these three included!”


Ginny Sweet and Karen Lucic for wonderful suggestions and support.